Who’s Dropping the Ball on Recall?
Hygienists, I have a few questions for you. Who is responsible for keeping your schedule productive? Does someone in the practice confirm your patients’ appointments? Does the practice regularly monitor and adjust for necessary hygiene days? Let’s look at the first and second questions. Who is responsible for keeping the hygiene schedule productive? And are hygiene appointments confirmed? Both of these are essential to a successful dental practice, and neither is the responsibility of the hygienist. I strongly recommend that practices designate a Patient Coordinator. This point person is responsible for keeping a steady flow of patients streaming into the hygiene treatment rooms. The hygienist is a clinical producer. The recall system is a business operational system.
The Patient Coordinator position has an enormous impact on production/overhead. The responsibility should be assigned to one business person – NOT the hygienist. In addition, this person should not be a “floater” who is expected to fill in here, there, and everywhere. The coordinator is professionally trained to make calls. They are given uninterrupted time to carry out their responsibilities, and this is their mission:
This person should be able to handle a patient base of 500 to 1000 on an average of 15 hours per week. Reactivating a few inactive patients pays for the position quickly. Monitor results. Each month, divide the number of patients due for prophies that month by the number performed. Shoot for a goal of around 95%.
Next, does the practice monitor and adjust the hygiene schedule? Hygiene schedules frequently appear to be overbooked. At times hygiene is so crowded there isn’t an appointment to be had for weeks. Consequently, if patients can’t get appointments in a timely manner, they start shopping around for a new dentist, which translates to bad news for the practice. However, little attention is paid to those holes in the schedule, and that translates into lost hygiene days. If the practice has more hygiene days than patients to fill them, revenues go down and overhead goes up. But how do you establish that seemingly elusive perfect balance in the hygiene schedule? It’s as easy as ABC.
Another means of measuring the need for additional hygiene time is to assess how long patients have to wait for appointments. If the waiting time is consistently three weeks and is beginning to slip into the fourth week, it may be time to add one more day of hygiene.
Understanding how the hygiene numbers stack up in your practice will provide you with clear information to determine if your doctor is meeting patient demand with existing resources, or if he/she needs to add hygiene time. It also will give you solid data on the efficiency of your hygiene department.
Employee Orientation Checklist
With the national average of dental employee turnover being every 18 months, it is highly likely that the New Year may bring new employees to your practice. Having a hiring system in place to prevent employment nightmares that may have plagued your practice in the past are prudent. The excitement of finding the right person and quickly training them to perform their duties often leaves out important details. Having an Employee Orientation checklist is helpful to ensure that important segments are not left out or overlooked.
1. A formal welcome to the practice from the doctor and the team. This could be a letter of welcome from the doctor and lunch at a favorite restaurant with the entire team. At the lunch, each team member should have the opportunity to introduce themselves, explain their position in the practice and say what they will do to help the new hire assimilate as quickly as possible.
2. An Employee Policy Manual with an explanation that the manual is a guide to the office and the employee policies. Each employee should have the same understanding in regards to vacations, medical benefits, pension plans, continuing education, maternity leave, jury duty, paid holidays, dental benefits, etc. so that questions can be addressed before they become misunderstandings. Ask the new hire to read the policy manual and sign an acknowledgement that they understand and will abide by all the rules. It is also recommended that the doctor or the business administrator go over the items bulleted below to ensure that the new employee has full understanding and that they have had the opportunity to ask questions about each item.
3. Employee training is offered for a period of 90 days. During this period of time the new hire is introduced to the practice environment and trained to do their particular job duties with the understanding that the work performance and attendance is being monitored by the doctor or the business administrator. A gradual improvement should occur daily as the new hire integrates into the practice.
4. The practice mission statement is to direct the team toward the same purpose or vision of the practice. A shared vision is important for the practice success. This mission statement is the core to developing teamwork. Knowing the primary goal of your practice, what most represents how you feel about your patients and what sets you apart from the other practices in the area will help you develop this statement.
5. All information necessary to create an employee file is gathered. This list includes the following information that is to be kept in a locked file to protect the personal information of the employees:
Without this system in place, you will quickly forget what was said to the new hire and as time goes on and more people are hired, it will be quite evident that something different was said to each one. Employees remember and often compare with each other. Keep the peace in your practice and stick to the system.
If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs to improve the performance of your team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Less New Patients = Lots Less Revenue
Dr. Guy Gregory – Case Study #321
Dr. Gregory is a client of McKenzie Management and has experienced significant growth in his practice over the past 12 months. At the same time, due to the economic downturn and the effect it is having on his new patient numbers, he isn’t as productive now as he was 8-9 months ago. He wanted to know why. Let’s see what is happening.
Dr. Gregory’s practice statistics before MM in 2008:
Improved systems and training after MM during the first six months of 2009:
So, you may be wondering: “Wow – that is great! What is the problem?” Let’s view the statistics during the last five months of 2009:
Due to a lack of marketing protocols, the practice’s number of new patients also dropped off significantly. Was this due to the economy? I am sure that this didn’t help any, but without a consistent marketing plan to bring in new patients, eventually all of the patients’ needs will be addressed.
Fortunately, the hygiene department has only experienced a slight decline in production because hygiene needs are repetitive and ever-revolving. This is one of many reasons why your hygiene department is so valuable to you; it provides passive income that is dependable, as long as there is a recall system in place that is retaining 95% of your hygiene patients.
Why New Patients Are So Important
Another example of what happens when there are fewer new patients in a dental office would be that of a “mature” practice. Over the years, all the existing patients have had all their treatment completed. Without a healthy number of new patients, it is the hygiene department that keeps the practice alive. Again, “mature” doctors feel that they don’t need to advertise and grow their practice. However, when it comes time to sell, the numbers will not illustrate any significant growth and maybe even some decline. These statistics will not be favorable when establishing a selling price for the practice.
Market - Market - Market
Learn a lesson from Dr. Gregory. Take action - don’t wait around until your doctor chairs are empty and you have cut the number of working days to 3 instead of the usual 4 because you don’t have patients.
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